Move Towards Isolationism Proceeding Nicely, Thank You

I may be radicalized on this subject but I’m seeing an inexorable move towards isolationism in the United States. One aspect of the move is the “Come Home, America” tone of those who advocate withdrawing our forces from Iraq, which is beginning to include Republicans (eyes on the 2008 elections, no doubt) as well as Democrats. The predisposition to discount the risks for the Iraqis, the neighboring countries, and U. S. interests as a consequence of that course of action concerns me.

The mood is even more obvious in the anti-trade sentiments that are floating around. I don’t know that anyone in the blogosphere has been more out front in covering the various problems with Chinese imports than I have been so it may seem odd that I’d criticize the anti-Chinese editorials and news coverage that we’ve been seeing so much of lately. Note, however, that my prescriptions for remedying the situation have consistently been country-of-origin labelling to give consumers the ability to make informed choices and greater due diligence on the part of managers. I haven’t been advocating bans or tariffs.

Ever since China and India began opening their economies there has been no greater engine for improving human happiness than international trade. The overwhelming preponderance of the benefits of China’s export-driven economic growth have gone to people in the lowest income quintiles. For details see here.

The latest salvo in the march against international trade seems to be the opposition of some in Congress to the U. S.-Colombia bilateral trade agreement:

The headline above — The collapse of Colombian-U.S. relations — comes from an article in Nova Colombia, detailing how an anti-trade contingent in Congress, aligned with organized labor, is using every political weapon to block the new, bilateral free trade agreement. Its failure could be devastating for democratic progress in Latin America.

On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily editorially explained the real crisis facing trade and democratic progress in Colombia and Latin America, “Congress Holds Colombia Hostage.” It’s a harsh editorial, one that does not adequately acknowledge the level of internal congressional debate on Colombia, but it does powerfully paint the stakes of a failed FTA.

The trade pact Colombia negotiated in good faith with the U.S. and which it needs to sustain its dramatic economic recovery from the ruins of a 44-year war must wait until Democrats arbitrarily decide they’re satisfied with the violence level. This gives every anti-free trade Colombian thug an incentive to keep killing.

I’m sympathetic to those who want to tie improvements in human rights and political freedom to trade but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. Our emphasis should be more on providing incentives than on curbing trade.

6 comments… add one
  • . . . which is beginning to include Republicans (eyes on the 2008 elections, no doubt) . . .

    I don’t think this is entirely fair. Dick Lugar isn’t facing re-election any time soon, and in any case won with something like 85% of the vote. I don’t think Judd Gregg is up any time soon. Olympia Snowe is safe. Lamar Alexander, maybe, but he’s in a mostly red state where most of his trouble came from the right, not from democrats. Voinovich isn’t up til 2010 and he ran away with it last time. Those are the main “soft-on-Iraq” GOP senators that come to mind, I’m probably forgetting some.

    I don’t think personal politics is pushing them to abandon Mr. Bush on Iraq, although there may be a feeling that it’s time to limit the damage to their party and provide cover for some other GOP senators. We’ll see more GOP senators — especially those from purple states with sell-by dates of 2008 — turning on the war, and perhaps that will be mainly political. But with a guy like Lugar I think he’s simply reached the conclusion that this war is a mistake and that Mr. Bush is a leader no longer deserving of the benefit of the doubt. And I doubt very much that Lugar is discounting the potential negatives.

  • Domenici, that’s who I was forgetting. He is up in 2008. He won fairly big last time but NM is a bluish state and support for Iraq could cut into his incumbent advantage.

  • michael rickels Link

    These republican senators are very cynical. They know that if the US leaves Iraq, that the terrorists will follow them home and begin bombing markets in the US. They believe this will help them with voters, who historically see republicans as stronger on national security. How many american lives will this cynical gesture by republican senators cost, here in the home country?

    Any senator who would pull such an evil trick should be driven from power.

  • Fletcher Christian Link

    Restrict trade from China to USA? Simple. Have strict quality standards – and enforce them, including rigorous inspection and testing of all goods coming from China (or anywhere else for that matter). There are more than enough stories of shoddy, dangerous and downright poisonous electrical goods and food coming from there to have that fact as a good, and defensible, reason for said inspection.

    It would increase the retail price of Chinese goods in the USA, which wouldn’t do wonders for Wal-Mart’s profits or share price. And?

  • Let’s let the oil run the world. And sit back and all accept are fate. because they are smarter than you and me. Untill I see something different

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